10 minute read by Dog Gone Seattle Founder/Director Jenny Nordin. Scroll to bottom for TLDR.
“Don’t feed the trolls.”
This is what my husband tells me when I get upset over hateful people online. And usually I don’t. Over the last few days, though, what started as one fake Facebook profile posting nasty reviews of our rescue and harassing our rescue’s partners has snowballed with a salaciously titled page “Dog Gone Seattle rescue hurts dogs” being posted seemingly everywhere and promoted (with paid advertising) on Facebook and Instagram to our rescue fans and Seattle residents. Oh, and I’m also getting death wishes sent to me personally.
These hateful slanderous posts are apparently protected as “free speech” despite the fact that the person/people spreading these lies hide behind fake Facebook profiles (Anonymous) and block anyone who questions their allegations. Not only have they attacked Dog Gone Seattle and me personally, but they have also hounded every single one of our rescue partners and supporters, leaving them hateful reviews filled with blatant lies. We have seen these activities originating from a “Billy Williams” and a “Luna Âme” who may be the same person, and the agenda is centered around “taking down” a controversial trainer, Jeff Gellman, and anyone remotely connected to him.
Sadly, in age of the internet, anyone with a smartphone can get on Facebook or Yelp and straight up lie, and if they say it loud enough and long enough, some people believe them. While I will refuse to engage with this person/people directly (because you can’t argue with crazy), I do feel compelled to offer this statement for the general public so you will know what we stand for or the work we do, and so you may better differentiate fact from fiction and see this campaign for what it is: Fake News.
Most importantly I want to state unequivocally that Dog Gone Seattle does not abuse dogs.
The Slander and the Reality
The accusation is that Dog Gone Seattle rescue hurts dogs and I am an animal abuser. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When I was a little girl, I would steer my bike to avoid riding over Carpenter ants. In college, I was one of the only students with a dog; I adopted from the city shelter when I was 19 years old. I volunteered in wildlife rehabilitation and donated what little money I had to the ASPCA. Before Dog Gone Seattle was a dog rescue, it was a website I created as a resource for Seattle dog owners to find dog-friendly establishments where they could bring their dogs. My husband and I have a king-sized bed so there’s room for our 85 lb. rescue Doberman, our German Shepherd is a regular blood donor at Blue Pearl, and I relocate even the largest house spiders outside to this day.
Since founding Dog Gone Seattle, my entire life has revolved around the rescue and our mission of saving homeless dogs at risk for euthanasia. I’m not sure most people understand the sacrifice involved. It is a 24/7/365 undertaking. There are no days off, there is no turning off my phone, and it’s emotionally and physically exhausting work. The dogs we take in are often neglected and abused, in great need, and we can never take as many dogs as we would like. I have to choose, day in and day out, which dogs we can help and which dogs we cannot. I give my time and knowledge freely on a daily basis to help people in our community who are struggling with their dogs. I work over 100 hours a week, every single week, and my husband and I have fostered over 250 dogs personally — I won’t even get into all of the early mornings, late nights, diarrhea clean up, tick removal, and care required for this level of commitment.
I don’t do it for the recognition or for the paycheck — that is not what I seek. I do it because I love dogs, and I have a passion for helping people and seeing dogs go from unwanted to loved. I do it because I love a challenge and I am not afraid of hard work. I do it because these dogs have no one else.
Dog Gone Seattle, by all accounts, is massively successful. In just a few short years, we have grown to a thriving organization: possibly the largest foster-based rescue organization in Washington. We have a highly educated board, a team of dedicated case managers, and a small army of fosters and volunteers, all dedicated to our rescue mission.
We have almost 100 dogs in the rescue at any given time. Every single one is in a foster home with a family who cares about them, their well-being and their placement in a carefully-selected, loving forever home. Our dogs sleep in warm beds at night, not on hard concrete floors. They transition from a high stress environment through foster care. We do not have a physical shelter facility. Unlike some other rescues, our foster families are actively involved in the placement of their foster dogs.
An attack on our organization is an attack on all of our dedicated foster families who generously give their time and energy helping dogs transition from unwanted to loved. I take that personally because I cherish our foster families as the heart of our organization.
I am immensely proud of what Dog Gone Seattle has accomplished. The numbers speak for themselves. Since our inception we have rescued thousands of dogs. In 2019 we saved 900 dogs at imminent risk for euthanasia, and in January 2020 we took in 101 dogs. Compare that to the save numbers of local shelters with massive endowments and you will find we are making an incredible impact with our community’s support. With all of the special needs dogs we have accepted, we have only euthanized 3 dogs. That’s a 0.15% euthanasia rate. Compare that to any rescue or shelter in the nation. You don’t get that kind of success running a “sham organization” as we have been called.
Dog Gone Seattle is a 501c3 organization with fully transparent operations — Not only can you see our short forms here, but you can reach out to me personally and I would be happy to share our books with you. We are proud of our fiscal management. We do not charge outrageous adoption fees and yet we are still able to help special needs dogs– like Josie, who needed a $5,000 heart surgery, or Audrey, who received almost $10,000 in vet care, or countless dogs who have needed FHOs and TPLOs. We also help dogs with significant behavior challenges that other rescues or shelters cannot or will not help.
With the responsible leadership of our board, we have managed to save funds that will allow us to help even more dogs in the near future, as we plan to create a space for DGS fosters, adopters and struggling owners to exercise and train their dogs: a space where reactive dogs can practice agility, shy dogs can do barn hunt, and owners needing help can work with professional trainers at low or no cost to help keep dogs in their homes. This will greatly benefit our community at large.
Guilty by Association (with Jeff Gellman)
The elephant in the room is the accusation that “Dog Gone Seattle hurts dogs.” We are ‘guilty by association’ based on our alleged relationship with/endorsement of Jeff Gellman of Solid K9 Training, who has been deemed an animal abuser by the court of public opinion online. For those who are not aware, Jeff Gellman is a ‘last chance’ dog trainer who takes on dogs with severe behavioral issues that other trainers literally won’t touch, or he is the last resort for families who have been to four, five, six other trainers… These dogs are facing pink juice if they don’t get their act together. That’s the reality. Jeff travels the country hosting seminars to help desperate dog owners, and he is a highly polarizing figure. There are those who would lay on hot coals for him, because they say he saved their dog’s life; and then there are those who profess they would like to see his entire family raped and hung, and think he is the devil incarnate.
A couple of months ago, an edited video of Jeff Gellman “bonking” a dog at a seminar was created by a group whose stated mission is to take Jeff down. The original video was actually shared by Solid K9 Training. The edited bonking clip was widely circulated and resulted in a great outrage. Hear this — I absolutely agree — the video is upsetting to watch, and without context is most definitely disturbing. I’m not here to denounce or defend bonking (you can view Gellman’s explanation here) because that really has nothing to do with Dog Gone Seattle. I have never met the dog or the owner in the video and I do not know their story, so it would be inappropriate for me to offer commentary on appropriate training.
It is true, I have attended training seminars by Solid K9 Training with other fosters/volunteers. We have also attended dozens of other training seminars over the years, in an effort to learn everything possible to help us in our mission to save dogs.
Dog Gone Seattle has never hired Jeff Gellman to train any of our dogs, though Solid K9 Training has donated seminar spots to our rescue. They have also provided free information which has helped us with particularly challenging dogs in the rescue, just as they provide free information that helps many owners of difficult dogs. I would be remiss if I did not say, what you do not see in the “bonking video” is the big picture approach of Solid K9 Training, which is approximately 90% positive reinforcement including clicker training for every dog that comes into their program.
Please know: As a thoughtful and rational human being, I am quite capable of listening to information and then taking from that information what is helpful and aligns with my beliefs, and leaving what is not helpful or does not align with my beliefs. Just because I have attended a Gellman seminar does not mean that I ascribe to all of Jeff’s training methods as Gospel; I do not.
I will not throw Jeff under the bus because I do not know him to be an animal abuser; during the times I have been in his presence I have not witnessed any animal abuse.
More importantly, none of the dogs in our rescue have ever been abused. PERIOD.
Dog Gone Seattle Training Approach
I have spent a great deal of time studying dog training, working with dozens of dog trainers with different approaches, and learning about dog behavior to be able to better help the dogs in our care. We have a behavior team of amateur and professional dog trainers in our community that all work together as needed to help more challenging dogs. Our responsibility as a rescue is to make sure each individual dog gets the training needed to be successful; we are not limited to one style or method. The specific training we employ or recommend will depend on the dog in front of us.
We absolutely believe that reward-based training is ideal and should be the first approach when working with any dog. We also view dogs (like people) as individuals, with different inclinations and learning styles.
Some dogs are motivated by food, others by toys or praise. Some dogs are sensitive; others are more stoic. Unfortunately, there are some dogs who do not respond sufficiently to “pure positive training,” and without further intervention would not be adoptable. We do not believe those dogs should lose their home or their life. Alternatively, we choose to utilize the least intrusive, minimally aversive approach to address the behavioral issues. For dog training nerds, this is known as LIMA, the official training methodology of Dog Gone Seattle.
In layman’s terms, this means that if a dog has behavioral issues that pose a danger to itself or others that cannot be reasonably addressed with rewards (treats/praise), we will use punishment to eliminate unwanted behaviors, and corrections will be meted fairly and sparingly. (BTW “punishment” by definition is anything that reduces the frequency of an unwanted behavior, so if a dog trainer says they don’t use punishment, this should be concerning to you. Even the withholding of treats is technically “negative punishment.”) This article by Tyler Muto, esteemed trainer and former President of the IACP, summarizes our position on training (and why it matters) better than I can, and I urge you to read it.
Here’s the thing… We take in dogs from shelters with unknown histories, many who were surrendered due to behavior problems. We are also asked by local shelters to help when dogs are “in need of rescue” and we take in owner surrenders that other rescues have turned down. Then, we rehabilitate them. In some cases, these dogs have already spent weeks if not months in “pure positive” training programs at shelters with a lot of money and trainers on staff. Sometimes, these dogs are highly medicated. Still, they were not “adoption candidates” (which is the tasteful way of saying they’re going to be killed). These are facts.
In short, we do not believe in death before discomfort — and to those pet dog owners or trainers who would rather see a dog rehomed or euthanized before seeing a dog on a prong collar — I will not debate you, but I think you’re batshit crazy.
We believe in Balanced Training, which means the use, if necessary, of all four quadrants of operant conditioning to train a dog; it does not mean that a dog is living in pain or fear (though there are vocal critics who would lead you to believe otherwise). Balanced training saves lives. I know this is true, because I’ve seen it work over and over again on dogs that would not be alive today if not for the training that we provided. Despite the fear mongering from a vocal few that these dogs are just suppressed “ticking time bombs,” that is just not the case. I can give you a long list of adopters living happily ever after with their well-behaved, balanced dogs. We are able to help these dogs because we have educated ourselves, and we have a team of professional trainers we work with who are able to help very challenging dogs, when necessary.
We receive multiple requests every single day to take in dogs with serious behavioral issues from local shelters and owners like. Of course we cannot help them all, but when we do accept dogs that need more extensive training, we believe they deserve a fair shot, which means providing whatever training approach that will help that individual dog be successful. Rewards absolutely will be a part of every dog’s training, but there may also be fair consequences to extinguish dangerous behaviors. And it works. The proof is in the pudding.
Finally, I want to take a moment to thank all of the professional trainers in the Seattle area who have supported Dog Gone Seattle, our fosters and adopters; they have collectively helped thousands of families. Unfortunately for them, merely being listed on our website as a recommended trainer has elicited threats and harassment from the Anonymous cult of crazy. If one of these trainers has helped your family or your dog, please give them some love including your business, your referrals and your positive reviews. They are passionate about helping dogs; they are the abused, not abusers, and they don’t deserve this.
The ‘evidence’ on Yelp
As part of the assault on Dog Gone Seattle, the Anonymous have shared some unfavorable Yelp Reviews as red herrings. I don’t even like to indulge this with a response, but suffice it to say the vast majority of unsavory Yelp Reviews are from disgruntled individuals who were not approved to adopt the dog whose picture they had fallen in love with. To be clear, our responsibility — first and foremost — is to the dogs in our care. Just because you want to adopt a dog from us doesn’t mean that’s going to happen. We’re not a shoe store and we do not adopt first come first serve. We need to ensure that it is a good match for the dog, as well as the human(s).
What really sucks is when entitled individuals decide to make it personal when things don’t go their way. Just because you are a veteran with PTSD does not mean that I am discriminating against your “disability” when you are not approved to adopt a specific dog. In fact, I am married to a veteran who did three tours of combat. Nor am I a racist because I didn’t adopt a specific dog to a person of color.
The most ridiculous review I’ve seen is from an individual who claimed that we “must have beat” the dog she adopted because he is hand shy. Lady… Dogs come to us abused! We do not abuse dogs. Do you know how long it takes to desensitize a dog that is hand shy? These claims are patently false and infuriating.
To be fair, there are a few constructive complaints on Yelp regarding timeliness of our responses to adoption applications, or frustration with the process — and we accept that feedback and work to be better. Our organization is powered by volunteers and we do the best we can. But by and large, the ‘complaints’ on Yelp are just total garbage.
Frankly, I think Yelp is the armpit of the internet and I wish it didn’t exist. I wish people could see all of the fabulous reviews on Facebook from adopters with photos of dogs living their best lives, but sadly I have had to turn off Facebook reviews due to the Anyonymous who were leaving one-star reviews because they are on some deluded witch hunt.
If you would like to get a sense of the work we do, feel free to go peep at our new DGS Adopters #DGS Alum page. It’s pretty special. (But to join, you have to adopt a dog; we can help with that.) Or, come meet us in person at any of our adoption events!
I hope this post will help put this nonsense to rest because there isn’t enough time in the day to do all the work that needs to be done, and this has been a giant distraction. I don’t want sympathy, but to all of the haters who have nothing better to do with their time than attack us under the guise of protecting animals from harm, I would ask that instead, you fill out a volunteer application and join our team to see for yourself the incredible work that we do.
Dog Gone Seattle is being slandered and harassed by anonymous individual(s) who have made it their mission to take down anyone allegedly affiliated with Jeff Gellman/Solid K9 Training. DGS has attended Solid K9 Training seminars but has never hired Gellman to train rescue dogs and has never witnessed animal abuse during these seminars. DGS ascribes to LIMA training, employing the least intrusive minimally aversive methods necessary, and has never abused any animals in its care. DGS has successfully rehabilitated and rehomed thousands of dogs, including many that were formerly ‘not adoptable’ due to behavioral issues. All dogs are in loving foster homes and get the vet care and training they need to be successful in forever homes. In 2019 DGS saved 900 dogs at risk for euthansia. DGS believes the slander, harassment and death wishes are grossly unwarranted and ask that you report these activities. For further inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.